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Scarcity of STBs frustrating digital switch on of Ilorin, Kaduna, others—NBC

…reviewing applications for Radio licence renewals

All logistics and needed infrastructure settings are on ground to the effective Digital Switch Over (DSO) of Ilorin in Kwara State and Kaduna state, but for the scarcity of Set Top Boxes (STBs), popularly known as the decoder for signal reception to be used by households.

Also, most radio stations whose licences have expired have reapplied for renewal and their applications are being processed either for granting or refusal of renewal.

These two critical revelations were made by a senior official of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), in a telephone interview over the weekend in Abuja.

The official who pleaded anonymity explained more on the regional rollout status, saying “Kaduna is good to go as far as Digital Switch over (DSO) is concerned because all installations and logistics are set. What is holding back the switch on is scarcity of Set Top Boxes (STBs) which are highly expected from our local manufacturers”.

“Recall that the federal government had made it clear that all STBs must come from within and not imported as a way of driving local content in the sector.

Recall that we had over the earlier period of DSO campaign licensed about 14 companies to go into STB production and am aware of about five producing now in Lagos, Calabar and Osun state and others are coming up. It’s a revenue earner investment for producers because Nigeria has the market even though in some cases government subsidies for Nigerians buying from them to drive easy access so that DSO will be flexible.

“Majority of the companies are working day and night to mass produce STBs. So as soon as enough boxes are on ground, Kaduna will be live on digital TV.

All the needed infrastructure in terms of signal distribution are set and they have all been test run with excellent results.

On the expected rollout from the six geo-political zones, the officer said “We are taking a set of one state each from every zone at a time so that switch on will be effectively in national uniformity across the federation”.

“From available structures, Ilorin and Kaduna are set only waiting for STBs. The Director General of NBC, Mallam Modibbo Kawu was there recently and confirmed everything set except the availability of STBs. You know switching on with no STBs means efforts in futility because signals will be there, but nothing to move the signals to homes for viewers.

“Besides, the signal distributors have assured NBC that they are working very fast in other four states and that before the end of the year, the first set of six states in each zone will be live on DSO.

On how signal distributors shared the states’ rollout jobs, NBc explained that “Whereas ITS is handling Ilorin, Pinnacle is in charge of Kaduna. They also shared other emerging states as only two signal distributors are operating in Nigeria even though the regulation allows for three. The channels are coming in segmented order or local regional and national plus some international channels.

“The national channels seem very easy because satellites are used to download them, but local channels are hooked on from their digital switch.

Giving more details on issues relating to renewal of radio broadcast licence, the official revealed that “Most Radio Broadcast stations have applied for licence renewal as many have expired. Recall that every broadcast licence has a life span of five years”.

“And renewal application takes some time as it is not automatic because NBC has to look at your performance and how you used the previous licence as part of conditions for renewal. The point is very clear, any of the stations that certified laid down conditions will surely get renewal, but if you fail in any part, it will be denied,” NBC official noted.

On the Oyo State’s government threat to pull down some stations operating in residential building that are illegally converted to commercial, the NBC staff averred that “Whereas the ultimate powers to shut down stations rest with NBC, a state government has powers to pull down any building it felt contravened its laws.

If a state pulls down a station, that has no business with its licence. We at NBC always advice stations to while they meet our terms and condition, they should also meet their states’ conditions because they cannot operate in the air or in isolation. NBC licence does not translate to licence to violate environmental regulations or states.

“Besides, NBC had been having related issues with some states government and stations. Remember in Nasarawa State, it happened and many of the issues border on political differences because while the Nasarawa State government suddenly decided to pull down a station it was present during the inauguration few years ago is worrisome.

“Though the government cited contravention to environmental issues and lack of building approval, the key question remains if the laws were at rest when government officials graced the station’s opening ceremony.

“So, we think some of these ceiling up, shutting down and other forms of disturbances from states are politically motivated. We felt that some of these issues lie on the purview of the states governments and has nothing to do with licenses,” NBC staff summed.